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When Reeya Callychurn arrived at Caldwell University, she was the first person from her country to attend the school. Mauritius, her home country, is an island nation located off the east coast of South Africa. Traveling by plane to the United States takes a full day. To some it might seem impossible that a high school student from Mauritius could find Caldwell University, let alone decide to attend. But Callychurn’s path is a testament to her hard work and the dedication of the staff at Caldwell.

Callychurn discovered Caldwell because it met several of her most important desires for a college. She knew she was interested in a school in the United States after two Mauritian students visited her high school during a break from their university studies in America and shared positive experiences. She also wanted to find a school that offered good merit-based scholarships. And if she was going to end up in the United States, she hoped to study in or close to New York City. When she entered her parameters into her online college search, Caldwell University popped up.

“There were other schools that I was considering, but the very first factor which determines what school to choose for an international student is affordability,” Callychurn says of narrowing down her search. “The next factor was a location. Location plays a big, big role.”

The fact that Caldwell provided significant financial aid along with a location that offered easy access to New York City sold Callychurn. Beyond that, she was blown away by the personal attention she received from the staff as she tried to make her decision.

“One person who helped me greatly through every step would be Jan Marco Jiras,” Callychurn says of the director of admissions. “If I’m here today, I would say it’s because of him.”

Once she arrived at Caldwell, Callychurn dove into her studies. As a freshman, she earned the C-Pin, an award given to exemplary students at honors convocation. She came from a very competitive education system in Mauritius and applied her work ethic to her university studies. Callychurn appreciates the opportunity to pursue her higher education in a caring, attentive environment, and this factor has driven her performance. “Caldwell is taking good care of me, and now it is my opportunity to give back as a good student.”

Caldwell’s emphasis on liberal arts stands out for Callychurn. She is studying biology and plans to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research. At the same time she is being exposed to a wide variety of subjects, like theology and more extensive literature studies. This is one of the ways the university has surprised her. She is also thrilled to discover that despite her worries, the Catholic college accepted her, a Hindu, and treated her with care and respect.

Even though Callychurn does not have the company of another student from her country at Caldwell, she has been able to form strong bonds that are bridging the gap and meeting her need for connection and support.

“I feel very valued and treasured,” she says of the Caldwell community. “The persons who brought me here were Jan Marco Jiras and Maulin Joshi. But if you look at the faculty and all the Sisters at school, if you need help, you reach out and they’ll be here. The school provides a very good support system.”

During her 18 months of study, Callychurn has gifted the school with her culture. She has placed the Mauritian flag in the Hall of Flags. She has brought her food to a schoolwide Thanksgiving celebration that was tailored to showcase the many backgrounds of students. Her presence has surely added to the tapestry woven from the diversity found on campus.

As for being a trailblazer as the first and only student from her country, Callychurn says it has its pros and cons. “Sometimes you don’t fit in the crowd, but sometimes it makes you stand out.”  

—Nicole Burrell ’09